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The American Lawyer reports that 2019 was a record-breaking year for law firm merger announcements and represented a “solid year of growth” for completed mergers, according to recent data collected by two legal industry consultancy firms tracking law firm tie-ups. Altman Weil, which tracks law firm merger announcements, announced that last year’s 115 combinations broke the record set by the U.S. legal industry in 2018, which saw 106 announcements. Additionally, another report by legal consultancy firm Fairfax Associates, which counts combinations once they are completed, announced that firms completed 59 mergers in 2019. While this is lower than the 71 mergers counted in 2018, it is still higher than the historical average of 54 mergers per year recorded between 2009 and 2018, Fairfax notes.

Two of the largest merger announcements from 2019 took effect the first day of the new year: Taft—the result of Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius & Hollister merging with Minneapolis-based Briggs & Morgan—and Lathrop GPM, the offspring of Kansas City, Missouri-based Lathrop Gage and Minneapolis-based Gray Plant Mooty. Aside from Taft and Lathrop GPM, ten more law firm mergers are scheduled to close in the first quarter of 2020, Fairfax reports. This includes Dentons combinations with Indianapolis-based Bingham Greenebaum Doll and Pittsburgh-based Cohen & Grigsby as well as the pending marriage of Minneapolis-based Faegre Baker Daniels and Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle & Reath, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

The majority of mergers in 2019 continued to be small combinations, with eighty-five percent of the mergers involved firms between five and 20 lawyers, Fairfax reports. “We are continuing to see firms anywhere from 100 lawyers to 600 to 700 lawyers feel like they need more scale in order to compete effectively,” notes Lisa Smith, a principal at Fairfax Associates. “I think we’ll continue to see consolidation in the form of laterals and groups or small acquisitions or mergers of equal size. Consolidation is going to continue to be big in 2020,” she adds. Additionally, Zeughauser Group consultant Kent Zimmermann notes law firms are competing hard for talent. Deciding to scale up and merge can give a law firm a deeper bench and greater revenue, which can mitigate and ward off the poaching of top talent by other firms, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).

See highlights from the full article on The American Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law360 released its sixth annual Glass Ceiling Report, which surveyed 300 law firms on gender diversity and ranked firms based on the percentage of female equity partners in the United States. According to the report, women make up 36% of all attorneys and 25% of equity partners in law firms across the country. Firms with the highest levels of female equity partners tend to focus on building a clear pipeline to equity partnership for women and offer benefits like work schedule flexibility, mentorship programs and greater leadership opportunities in order to retain top-performing attorneys.

Among the 300 law firms surveyed, small firms (20-149 attorneys) had the highest percentage of female equity partners, including Sideman & Bancroft (63.6%), Culhane Meadows (60.0%), Brundo Testan (60.0%), Wilson Turner (55.6%) and Walsworth (50.0%).

For medium to large sized firms (150-599 attorneys), the top five best firms for female partners were Fragomen Del Rey (47.1%), Nossaman (42.9%), Hanson Bridgett (38.2%), Shipman & Goodwin (32.2%) and Best Best & Krieger (32.1%).

In the biggest category of ‘Big Law’ firms (600+ attorneys), Littler Mendelson tops the list of the biggest firms with the most female representation this year, with 29.6% female equity partners. Additional firms with the highest percentage of female equity partners include Jackson Lewis (28.3%), Faegre Baker Daniels (24.3%), Akerman (22.9%), and Ogletree Deakins (21.7%).

See highlights from the full article and rankings on Law360.

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Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

In the latest March 2018 issue, Chicago Lawyer published results from their 16th annual survey of Illinois’ largest law firms and spoke with managing partners at Chicago firms that have seen strong growth in recent years, including two of our clients Faegre Baker Daniels and Akerman.

Faegre Baker Daniels, for example, has proven that they have the right approach for Chicago growth, successfully growing their seven-attorney starter office to over 60 in just eight years. According to Chicago Lawyer’s latest survey results, Faegre Baker Daniels is the 58th largest firm in Illinois, up from 67th last year, and plans to have more than 100 lawyers in the Chicago office over the next few years. “We’re cognizant of the fact that the growth is primarily not going to come from our main markets, so we’re looking to grow in other markets,” notes Chicago managing partner, Rick Michaels. “There’s no limitation or desire to have a limited presence here. Our goal is to have [Chicago] be one of the growth vehicles for the firm as a whole.”

For Akerman, a mid-sized, full-service firm based out of Miami, growth has been a response to client demand. Chicago managing partner Scott Meyers discussed with the publication how client demand has continued to shape Akerman’s growth in Chicago, after firm headcount increased from eight to 51 lawyers since opening its doors in 2014. According to Chicago Lawyer’s recent survey, Akerman is the 67th largest firm in Illinois, up from 86th in 2017. “We did not come to Chicago just because we wanted to grow. We came to Chicago because our clients wanted us to be here. We have always worked backwards from ‘What do our clients need? What do our clients want? What do our clients expect us to be?’ rather than a strategy of ‘If we build it the clients will come,’” Meyers notes.

See highlights from the full article and survey on Chicago Lawyer.

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Law360 released its fourth annual Glass Ceiling Report, which surveyed 300 law firms on gender diversity and ranked firms based on the percentage of female equity partners in the United States.

According to the report, women make up just 34% of all attorneys and 23% of partners in law firms across the country. Law360’s editor in chief, Anne Urda, notes, “Intentions among law firms are good, and some slight progress has been made, but overall the numbers indicate that law firms need to do much more to close the gap among male and female associates and partners.”

Firms with the highest levels of female equity partners tend to focus on building a clear pipeline to equity partnership for women and offering benefits like work schedule flexibility, mentorship programs and greater leadership opportunities in order to retain top-performing attorneys.

Among the 300 law firms surveyed, small firms (20-149 attorneys) had the highest percentage of female equity partners, including Adelson Testan (60%), Walsworth (57.1%), Stokes Lawrence (43.5%), Berry Appleman (42.9%) and Verrill Dana (41.5%).

For medium to large sized firms (150-599 attorneys), the top five best firms for female partners were Fragomen (40.7%), Miller Nash (37.7%), Hanson Bridgett (37.1%), FordHarrison (33.3%) and Chapman & Cutler (31.2%).

In the biggest category of ‘Big Law’ firms (600+ attorneys), firms with the highest percentage of female equity partners were Littler (28.5%), Faegre Baker (27.2%), Jackson Lewis (26.1%), WilmerHale (25.1%), and Ropes & Gray (25%).

See the full article and rankings on Law360.

(Subscription required to access full articles.)

Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.

Astor Professional Search president Bill Sugarman quoted in Law360, discussing the Midwest legal market: http://www.law360.com/articles/789064/midwest-firm-falls-victim-to-cutthroat-lateral-market